Over the past dozen years I have written four books, three of which I have self-published and the last I have distributed to my family, but ,what I have come to realize recently, as I am in my eighty fifth year ,the books were always for me. The format was always short stories, poems and essays about my life, always happy and mostly true. As I read them now, over and over, again and again, it is a constant reminder of what I have been given in life and for which i am grateful. And moreover at 85 one needs to be reminded because everything seems to be newly discovered all over again. I have to admit I may becoming a simpleton since I find the writing thrilling. On the other hand I may be more a narcissistic than a simpleton which seems to be an equally abysmal choice. Though on the other hand maybe at one's 85th year I can handle either one with aplomb. What is that catchy little song from the olden days, "Don't worry, be happy."? I can handle that. So should most of us. Loving yourself isn't all that bad. As I wrote in a lecture on writing to a group, "Where you treasure and protect your voice there will always be an authenticity to it that speaks of you whatever you write. When you lay your voice on the page, and your verities emerge, you have already told your tale."
In 1953, my first year of medical school and the first day of classes we all waited with bated breath for information. The class I refer to was biochemistry and the old Scottish professor looked us over and smiled as we waited expectantly for some sort of introduction. He said, " In the matter of biochemistry you should know that the total value of chemicals of which you are composed today is 97 cents. After the five years of medical school when you are ready to leave and go into the practice of medicine you will likely still be worth 97 cents. However, what you can do and hopefully will do is priceless. This makes it worthwhile that you all pay attention now and later." Osler said 'If you listen carefully to the patient they will tell you the diagnosis.'" There is no investment I can think of that is equivalent to the increase of 97 cents to priceless.
When Jon Meachum wrote The Soul of America, The battle for our better angels, he has defined the struggle and the need we all have to overcome the forces that destroy. I was taken in by the quotation alleged to the second president of the United States, John Quincy Adams who said that he went into politics so his son could do math, and his son, could write poetry. Something like that I had written in respect to pre-med when we all took sciences because it was possible to get better marks to get into Medicine than in the arts courses, but despite the usefulness of the practice of Medicine and Politics, our hope for sons and daughters was that they would leap to an art that would magnify the Soul , like poetry.
It's always difficult to try to walk in someone else's shoes because you don't know how many insouls like you they needed to put up with before their feet stopped hurting. I'm just going to walk in my own shoes for the time being and shut up.
Through blast and bluster
They'll hang on
Through shame and fluster
Like the frog in water boiled
slowly rising hot
Like the country truly soiled
In a Gordian knot
I have no idea how they are going to solve properly the immense problems they have entered into sadly of their own accord, but his precipitate actions have brought the problems that have heretofore existed for them for years and have come to the fore all at once, as the frog is getting truly boiled. Very sad!
and takes you away
,A thought for today may sometimes be a function of the autonomous brain, a phenomenon that is away from will and occasionally operates at a lower or higher level in sleep or disaster than when employed in exploration of rational exercises. There is nothing in the dream world or panic driven or Tourette's blurt that is controlled. If you believe our brain is under mastery, it is not. Let's never underestimate what we unfairly term, idle thoughts. To get to idle thoughts, which by the way are not idle, we have to let go. A risky state. Who would want to be one of the unforgiven, the mismanaged, the odd man out? Thoughts that arrive by muse post, are often unexpected and unanticipated and not necessarily welcomed, but they are always surprising. Some say that the higher power communicates with the autonomous brain and we ciphers are just the conduit. If that's true there are no bragging rights and/or we can't be blamed. I'm reading that great little book The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. She writes of stratagies to unearth the inner voice. Like every thing else in life, it requires work and desire. It also requires in my view that you arrive at the point where you don't give a shit. Or at least willing to risk it.
When one thinks of obedience to one's muse, that gift demands a response that needs no defending. Call it what you like, if rebellion is your game and you ignore that call, you have not self-love. That by the way is learned and it's hard work and requires, as Erich Fromm has pointed out, Respect, Responsibility, Care and Knowledge, all are foundational for love and thereupon self-love as well. That is of course, self-respect, self responsibility, self care and self-knowledge. Because it's hard work it remains as a duty to yourself. Now I realize duty is a bad word amongst some these days who think they prize freedom above all else or at least what they perceive as freedom, but it really isn't when you realize that doing something that needs no defense is real freedom. It is therefore not a paradox to say that acts of obedience are freedom. Pay attention to your muse. Self-love is not such a bad way to be.
What kind of legacy do I wish to leave to a family or my neighbors or the world I cherish? Is it the album of photographs outlining the beauty and joy of the face and body we present to the world? Is it the mix of DNA we provide from our buccal epithelial cells, a legacy from our forebears? Or is it the inner man revealed with amusement of self, amazed with self, or affronted with self, that is the composite of the inner man? If we make a video to demonstrate our great golf swing or our benefit from Yoga or doing a total hip replacement while humming or singing sotto voce, Nearer my God to Thee; it's great but still the outer man. Of course one's children know the legacy from one's parental youth only. Grandchildren much less and great grandchildren not at all. Thereupon writing becomes a gift that speaks of identity along with photographs and DNA and specks of oral history, old furnishing and tattered documents. When you write the truth and love yourself for the truth rather than the gloss and lock up your false ego you will do something truly meaningful. The older you get the more and more difficult it becomes to be useful. Everyone wants down deep to be useful. At least we don't want to be useless. So write.
! The world abounds with creative thinking these days that often is defined as outside the box. It has to do with the capacity of Homo sapiens inclination, unlike any other learning species, for abstract thinking. I am in my imagination, holding the reins of a quartet of horses that are pulling me remorselessly along despite my heels dug into the dirt road, leaning backwards trying to hold them back with all my might. What newness does or at least what is perceived as newness, the creations outside the box, at least appeals to the horses, My point would be, "Hold your horses", before we throw out whatever is in the box. Don't get me wrong. Thinking beyond the box can still be only a stones throw from the box.
At 84 years I am composed largely of memories and blessed with them still, before they may ultimately flee. An old man sitting amongst his boxes and packaging and poking through them for thoughts to renew or remake, an old image for a new thought. It has become harder and harder not to become boring and I assume in some ways this subject or analysis is probably boring for those who value thinking outside the box because they may not have many boxes to poke into. I can't help that. I know that I am at least innocuous so leave me alone to pursue my unpacking to look for stuff to write about!
Two years ago I was booked urgently for stents because of intractable angina. I couldn't even straighten the sheets on my bed without chest pain. The day of the surgery I was booked as a late add-on and the pianist stopped at McDonalds on the way to the hospital. I was sitting in the car waiting for her to bring us coffee as it was early and I could drink it well before my procedure which was still iffy as I faced the fact that I could be bumped. I hadn't noticed that my friend Dion, a guitarist and singer and church friend was parked next to us and getting out of the car with his instrument. He had no idea where I was going and what I was facing but I guess he thought I might have looked morose or reflective and needed a lift. Standing in the parking lot he opened my door and started with You are My Sunshine and then to top it off Micheal Row the boat Ashore. What a good break for me to hear that and feel that, out of the blue, on the way to the hospital, by way of McDonalds. A lesson in how to never waste the opportunity to give out a little love to someone when you recognize the urging you have received by the spirit within. Micheal rowing across the Jordan is a black spiritual song reminiscent of the allegorical paradise when arriving at the shore of the promised land. I'm not sure Dion figured out all the theology he engaged, but that gets figured out for us when we listen carefully and he sure did that day when I thought the odd chance was I would get to the other side.
For Jim's past posts, check out his old blog here: